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UNC Program Teaches Dental Students How To Work With Children

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Many bad habits start early in life, but so do good habits. That's especially important to know when it comes to taking care of your child's teeth.

About 40 percent of children enter kindergarten in our state with cavities. That's why UNC pediatric dentist Dr. Rocio Quinonez wants to see 3-year-old Isabel Jones' teeth -- even though Isabel is reluctant to get into the exam chair.

Dr. Quinonez knows it takes patience. Meanwhile, a talk with Isabel's mother, Jessica Jones, about healthy snacking habits and brushing is just as important.

"With brushing, I'm just not sure if I'm doing it right, if I'm doing it long enough", said Jones who also had questions about frequency of brushing.

Dr. Quinonez asked her questions about Isabel's snack and drink habits.

Twenty-five million children under age 5 live in the United States, and there are only 5,000 pediatric dentists like Dr. Quinonez.

So she's part of a program at UNC-Chapel Hill to teach all dental students the same tricks of the trade in how to work with young children.

One of those tricks is a big stuffed doll with a big, toothy smile called Mr. Moose.

"Do you like him? Do you want to hold him?", said Dr. Quinonez as she handed the doll to Isabel and then used the doll's teeth to demonstrate proper brushing.

Dr. Quinonez prefers to see her youngest patients starting at about 12 months of age.

At 3 years of age, Isabel is suspicious of the surrounding and of every tool. Dr. Quinonez introduces one with a mirror on the end, "This right here is my tooth counter."

As Jessica Jones holds her daughter on her lap, she leans Isabel back with her head on Dr. Quinonez lap to get a look inside her mouth.

"Oh, you have beautiful teeth, yes you do", said Dr. Quinonez and Isabel tried to resist.

"I don't think she's too comfortable with coming yet. We'll have to work on it," said Jones.

Jones also had her 7-month-old son Cannon along for the visit. He is all gums and easy to work with.

Dr. Quinonez pointed out the first teeth that will soon pop through the front lower gum line.

Dr. Quinonez said children like Isabel should get a fluoride varnish treatment.

"Flouride varnish in controlled environments can prevent cavities by 35 percent," said Dr. Quinonez.

Even more cavities can be prevented when children begin dental visits early and their parents establish good dental habits at home.

Dr. Quinonez also encourages parents to keep juice drinks to just 4 to 6 ounces a day and to drink plenty of flouridated city water. Most bottled water does not contain fluoride.

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